From the first ACPA PechaKucha session, to its adoption as a conference-wide event, a number of faculty have begun to utilize the presentation style as a class assignment for their students. For a few years, I have avoided assigning this to my own students. I thought it was just too hard. That it required too advanced a skill set. I’ve since changed my mind and this semester I am assigning my students a PechaKucha assignment for the first time. As I reflected, I realized there were just too many positive outcomes associated with the style to not experiment with it. Of course, I’ll be grading leniently and providing a lot of care and support, but the experience of it all can be a great learning opportunity, even if some folks stumble. (If you’re looking for a help, check out my guide!)
Here are five outcomes I’ve identified for those who present PechaKuchas:
PechaKucha forces you how to simplify and hone your message.
Given the brief amount of time allowed for PechaKuchas, you only have time to convey one clear idea. Anything more than that and you risk confusing your audience. As Steve Jobs once said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Put your PechaKucha together and then step back for a moment. Are you trying to cram in too much? Too many points? Simplify. Take Away.
PechaKucha teaches you discipline.
PechaKucha has very strict rules. 20 slides. 20 seconds a slide. Automatically advancing. It requires impeccable timing and discipline. You can’t rely on your natural speaking ability to get you through (although it may help). People that do PechaKuchas become more disciplined presenters. This helps keep you on track and on point. There is no time for rambling. You’ve gotta stay focused and on track until the end.
PechaKucha teaches you better slide design.
PechaKucha slides need to be visual, impactful, and often with little to no text. Your audience doesn’t have time to read your slides while you’re talking. You want them to pay attention to YOU. The slides become secondary, the support, rather than the primary focus of attention. This can help you in subsequent presentations as it de-centers the slide and the screen, putting you and your message front and center.
PechaKucha makes you practice.
I don’t care who you are. You cannot do a PechaKucha without practicing it. The pacing of the slides requires it. When you run through your PechaKucha for the first time, you’ll realize that some points you are making require more time, and hence more slides, and some will require less time, and hence some slides may need to be combined. Practicing helps you understand your own abilities and style.
PechaKucha improves your public speaking abilities.
Once you start, it’s a roller coaster and you’re naked out there on stage. PechaKucha forces you to adjust your speaking on-the-fly. Speaking too fast? Slow down. Use your voice to emphasize points and buy you more time. Speaking too slow? Learn how to edit your talking points as you go. Just don’t stop! Keep talking! I also encourage PechaKucha presenters to work without notes. No one speaks at the same speed all the time. Being regimented with notes, although it may make you feel more comfortable, can actually be a hindrance. Learn to adjust you cadence dynamically. You’ll be a better speaker for it.